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What Is a Bierock?

By Christian Petersen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A bierock is a type of savory pastry baked with a stuffing of ground or shredded meat, onions, and shredded cabbage. It is a traditional food originating in Eastern Europe and was brought to the United States in the 19th century by German immigrants. It is most common in the central plains states of Kansas and Nebraska but can be found in other areas where German and Russian immigrants from the Volga River region have settled, such as Argentina. Like many traditional foods, the exact origin of the bierock is unknown and many alternate spellings and recipe variations exist.

Two main components make up every bierock. The first is the filling, which is ground or shredded meat, cooked with onions and cabbage. The meat is most often ground beef, but ground pork is sometimes used, or a combination of the two. Some recipes may call for cooked, shredded meat, such as leftover roast. The other two main ingredients are shredded cabbage and onions, which are cooked with the ground meat, absorbing some of the fat as they cook. Some recipes also call for shredded carrots or other root vegetables, such as turnips.

Many people who eat bierocks believe that the filling tends to be rather bland, and so some cooks alter the recipe to add more seasonings. Salt and pepper, caraway seeds, savory herbs, garlic, and soy sauce are common additions to bierock recipes for this reason, although other seasonings can be used as well. The filling is fully cooked and assembled ahead of time and allowed to cool somewhat before filling the bierocks.

The other main component is the dough, which, unlike the dough used for similar foods like pasties and pierogies, is not a pastry-type crust or pasta-like shell but a yeast bread. Many variations are possible, and a bierock can be shaped in almost any way the cook desires. Some traditional shapes are round like a hamburger bun, elongated like a small bread loaf, and semi-circles or crescents.

The dough can be a traditional white yeast bread but is most often a rich egg dough like that used for sweet dinner rolls. This type of dough is not sweet like a cinnamon roll or dessert pastry, but is just slightly sweet and is often made with generous amounts of butter and egg.

Constructing a bierock involves rolling out a small piece of once-risen dough into a circle, square or rectangular shape, topping with filling and pulling the edges up and pinching them together. To keep the bierocks together during cooking, they are placed with the seam side down on a baking sheet. Most recipes call for allowing the bierocks to sit a little while so that the dough can rise somewhat before baking. They are often brushed with egg or melted butter as well.

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